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InstantAction to offer embeddable console games

At GDC 2010, InstantAction follows rival OnLive in announcing a service that lets gamers quickly rent or buy console games over the Internet.

SAN FRANCISCO--It seems that the 2010 version of the Game Developers Conference here isn't just about social and iPhone games. It's also about services that can stream console-quality titles directly to gamers.

On Wednesday, OnLive announced its launch date--June 17--and said it would be working with partners like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, THQ, and others to deliver AAA games to anyone anywhere.

Rival InstantAction made a similar announcement on Thursday. InstantAction's catch is that it lets players choose how they consume a game, whether it's to play by the hour or to buy. Publishers set the fees that InstantAction charges. And if players begin by renting and later decide to buy, all fees they've paid up to that point are applied to the purchase price.

Regardless of whether someone rents or buys, the games they choose--and no titles have been announced yet--play in the browser. However, the model allows publishers and players alike full choice over where the games appear: they could be embedded in Facebook, a reviewer's site, a fan site, an e-mail, or a player's blog. In that sense, InstantAction CEO Lou Castle said, the content being delivered by the service is much like a YouTube video.

And because all the games are streamed from the cloud--in this case, said Castle, InstantAction is the cloud--players can take their games with them wherever they go--even pick up where they left off, regardless of whether they do it on the computer they started with, or on another machine. If a game is embedded in a blog, the players can pick up their own progress when they come back to it. However, if someone else clicks to play, the game starts from the beginning.

Another plus, said Castle, is that InstantAction's technology allows players to begin playing quickly. OnLive asserts that games streamed over its service begin instantly. So in this regard, InstantAction may not have the advantage, but Castle said that InstantActin's delays are often just a few seconds.

In addition, InstantActin's technology enables progressive downloads but allows people to start playing, even while games are still coming over the Internet. Once the game is finished, it is resident on a user's computer. A full-scale, AAA console game sent over a high-speed connection would take about four minutes, said Castle, but players could begin the action in the interim.

InstantAction is designed to work on Macs and PCs and with all major browsers. However, individual games are subject to the same system requirements as they would be if players were playing off DVDs.

For publishers, InstantAction is hoping to offer new sources of revenue and a potentially large, new audience. InstantAction will take a 30 percent cut off the top of any fees a game brings in.